Don’t like to get stuck in the middle?
It tends to be life’s most simple pleasures that bring us the most joy: getting to ride alone in a lift, stepping into an air-conditioned shop on a hot day, that new car smell.
Flying with an empty seat next to you is also high up on that list.
With all the drawbacks of flying – the food (or lack of it), hidden fees, no legroom and a someone kicking the back of your seat – there is no fail-safe way to guarantee a comfortable flight. However, there are a few ways to ensure you get the best of what’s on offer.
Back It Up
Seats at the back of the plane tend to be least popular because they’re bumpier, usually the last to get off and are nosier because they’re behind the engines. You’ll be closer to the toilets and near the galleries but those areas are also prone to high traffic, and chances are you’ll get the meals nobody wants since you’ll be the last to get meal service.
But all of this means that they’re the last seats to be filled, and if you can sacrifice what was only going to be subpar meal for an empty seat next you, the back is where you want to be. You’ll probably also be among the first to be called for boarding, which means you won’t need to play tetris with the overhead bin.
The newer aircraft cabins tend to be quieter than older models, but in general, in front of the wings is best since most of the engine noise is deflected backwards. Aisles are said to be quieter, but you’ll still cop the noise of people talking and walking through, plus the trolley carts going past. Bulkheads are where the bassinets attach and the likelihood of having small babies around presents more chance of crying. This is especially true for the descent – it’s harder for infants to equalise pressure in their inner ear and is far more painful that what adults experience.
Look For Empty Seats, But Not Too Empty
It might seem obvious to book next to an empty seat if you want an empty seat, but there is more to it than just that. Don’t look for rows that are completely empty, as seats usually fill up aisle first, window then middle. Look for a row where either the aisle or window is already booked, and select whichever one is free – if you book a seat in an empty row a couple may book the two other seats, but the single middle seat will be avoided by most.
Also try and avoid a big block of empty seats. They may look tempting but are enticing to large groups and families travelling together, so it increases your odds of being surrounded by noisy passengers and no empty seat beside you.
Work In Pairs
If you’re travelling with someone, book smart. Instead of booking two seats next to each other, book the aisle and the window because it will immediately look less attractive to other passengers. And if you luck out and end up with someone in the middle, it won’t be hard to convince them to swap to an aisle or window seat.